Can you not remember, my sister, as if it were yesterday, the hour your first born child lay in your arms and how your heart glowed with such love and joy that all you suffered in bearing it to life was forgotten. And as it lay there, weak and helpless, its very need called to you all the time, so that you could not forget it for a moment because of the great fountain of loving care that had sprung up in your heart. Even in the night you would wake at its faintest cry, and put your arms round and care for its needs.
God created in you, my sister, that wonderful Mother heart, and He loves you with the same tender love that He has given you for your little ones, only far more tender and deep. . . you have a place of refuge in God as safe and warm and beautiful as you have ready for your child. Come and hide your head there when you are afraid of what may happen and if you are troubled bring your troubles there as your children come to you. Heavenly Light on Daily Life (a series of unpublished devotionals for Arab women – see Home Page “Unpublished Manuscripts”)
Once again, we experience the high point in the year family-wise, as we gather with our children and grandchildren, 21 strong, for 7 wonderful days at the beach. It doesn’t take long for the cousins to re-connect after a year’s absence, and re-establish relationships in various configurations. Soon relaxed vacation routines emerge: long hours at the beach . . . late meals (lunches on the wrap-around porch, family dinners cooked, in turn, by each family unit) . . . evening family time. . . adult time (children bedded) when we talk late in the night (morning!) and share our stories of the year past.
It never ceases to amaze me how the children fill the sunny hours of the day, fueled by boundless energy and limitless imagination, beach and ocean providing the stage for play. I’m fascinated by shifting alliances – older children organizing activities. . . younger children wandering off to build a sand castle or chase a crab. . . the boys spending endless hours riding the surf. . . . Adults offer structure and the occasional verbal directive (“You’re out too deep;” “Let’s put on more lotion;” “It’s time to eat;” “Be gentle with little Addie”) but, much of the time, they (we) are background to the child-generated activity.
Until – there is a crisis! Stings from a jelly fish. . . legs and arms attacked by sand fleas. . . hurt feelings. . . an unresolved argument. . . possession rights challenged. . . Cousins are instantly abandoned. The wounded child rushes to its parent – usually to the lap of their mother. Often the comfort of a listening ear or a hug and kiss or a band-aid is sufficient and they are off and running again.
Lilias, ever-seeking to find means to convey spiritual verities to the Arab women, seized on the maternal relationship to illustrate the Heavenly Father’s love in her self-published booklet, “Heavenly Light on the Daily Path.” Illustrated with simple line drawings, she borrowed from the common, homely activities to illuminate heavenly truths, writing in “The Lesson of the Mother’s Lap:” “God created in you, my sister, that wonderful Mother heart, and He loves you with the same tender love that He has given you for your little ones, only far more tender and deep.” She underscored that truth with Scripture: “He says in His Book, ‘Can a women forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb, yea they may forget, yet will not I forget thee,” and again He says, ‘As one who his mother comforteth so will I comfort you.'”
No less do we, as adults, need the comfort and reassurance of a Heavenly Father. Nor are we, like our children, beyond the reach of our Heavenly Father. We may be more sophisticated in how we view our world, our expectations about God having been shaped by life experience and observation. We have less the belief that all will turn out as we want and more an understanding that no matter what happens God will be there with us. “Christ, who is God incarnate. . . knows and understands what we have experienced – and what we fear. We may indeed walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But God is there, walking alongside us, our constant companion on life’s long and winding road.” (The Christian Vision of God by Alister McGrath)
The challenge to convey – and accept – a personal and loving God was not unique to Lilias and her beloved Arab friends. Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) wrote Revelations of Divine Love, tender meditations on God’s eternal and all-embracing love: “God is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us with his love, which is so tender that he will never abandon us.” She concludes her meditation with the reassurance that despite all the trials and sorrows faced by God’s creation, in the end “all shall be well.” All shall be well because God constantly enfolds His creatures in His constant upholding love.
I look at our grandchildren – our adult children, for that matter. How I long to embrace them, figuratively speaking, in my “mother lap” – to shield and shelter them from the inevitable sorrows of life. Yet I know that they will experience setbacks and suffering that no band-aid nor hug nor listening ear can assuage. Better by far to point them to their Heavenly Father who is present for them in this world and will usher them safely into eternity.
A song they learned in Bible school comes to my mind, replete with motions – hand covering a cupped palm:
Safe am I (safe am I)
in the hollow of His Hand.
Sheltered o’er (sheltered o’er)
in His Love forever more.
No ill can harm me, no fear alarm me
for He keeps both day and night.
Safe am I (safe am I)
in the hollow of His Hand.
Adult. Child. “You have a place of refuge in God – safe and warm and beautiful. . . Come and hide your head there when you are afraid of what may happen and if you are troubled bring the trouble there. . . when Satan tempts you or the world draws you run to your refuge. . . if the night of death comes before Jesus returns He will take you in His arms and hush your soul to sleep and you will know nothing more till you wake in the new day of heaven.”
God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.
Painting: Diary 1899